Sport, Sci-Tech

The man who would be ‘Tour de France’ king, Floyd Landis, now wanted by French for hacking

It is a sad, mad and downright bizarre story about the young athlete who once stood on the winner's  podium of the world's toughest cycle race, but now stands officially accused of hacking into the French national anti-doping laboratory computers.

The news flash that hit the waves late on Monday was short and sparse: A French court has issued an arrest warrant for the disgraced (and dispossessed) winner of the 2006 Tour de France, Floyd Landis, after computer logs showed the French national anti-doping lab’s computer systems had been hacked into. That would be the very same agency that exposed him as a fraud, should you ask.

Landis shot to fame and, soon afterwards, global infamy during a sad 2006 Tour de France. The tour itself appeared doomed even before it started, with two clear favourites, Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso banned because of previous doping incidents. (The seven-time winner, Lance Armstrong, retired the year before.) Yet, the American kid with the cleanest of records imaginable, John Landis, captured the world’s imagination and admiration, and, for a while, everything appeared great. But then, on stage 16, Landis floundered and lost eight minutes, an eternity in Tour de France terms. It seemed all was over for Landis. But wait, the hero was back on stage 17, after setting an incredible pace on the tough climb that was impossible for others to match. The deficit from the previous stage was erased and Landis eventually won the Tour. Hooray!

Well. Nice for Hollywood movies, but very difficult in real life. Eventually the after-stage test showed that Landis’ testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio was almost three times the limit set by the World Antidoping Agency. The case was as cut and dried as you could get.

The fact that the test was only made public after Landis stood on the podium, basking in global accolades, made the whole affair even more explosive: the soaring height from which he plummeted to disgrace was simply too much to bear in silence. Landis probably didn’t have any other choice than to fight the ban tooth-and-nail to the end. As every reputation expert will tell you, fighting is often seen as near-proof that you were wronged.

And fight he did. Now, with French judge’s arrest warrant issued, it appears Landis did not only rely on lawyers to conduct his fight. French national antidoping laboratory director, Pierre Bordry, claims the incidents happened late in 2006 at the Châtenay-Malabry, Paris, antidoping facility that conducted Landis’ original 17th stage test.

According to The New York Times’ article in July 2009:

“In November 2006, the French antidoping agency filed a complaint claiming that confidential documents related to Mr. Landis’s drug tests had been stolen and sent to the news media and other labs.

“The documents had been altered in what lab officials said appeared to have been an effort to discredit them by casting doubt on the handling of test samples. Investigators concluded that one such email message had been sent from a computer using the same Internet protocol address as Arnie Baker, Mr. Landis’s coach.

“A search of computers in the lab in Châtenay-Malabry, a suburb of Paris, turned up a Trojan horse, a program that allowed an outsider to remotely download files. No evidence has surfaced to connect Mr. Landis or Mr. Baker to the hacking, and each has denied any involvement. They did, however, use the documents in their unsuccessful effort to overturn Mr. Landis’s cycling ban.”

And now it seems French authorities finally think their evidence is strong enough to actually put Landis behind bars for a long time. They will, however, have a hard time achieving it: The Landis arrest warrant is valid only on French territory and it is difficult to imagine Landis will plan any holidays on the Côte d’Azur for a long, long time.

By staff writer

Read more: The New York Times here and here, Los Angeles Times


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